MANKATO — On the eve of the Minnesota State Building and Construction Trades Council’s convention, delegates and guests met for an outdoor ceremony July 20 to celebrate the Council’s completion of a nine-month process to win designation as a “Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Company.”

Winning this designation means that the Council with its 15 affiliated unions now has in place a formalized plan and active program to bring military veterans into the trades and to support active duty service members and National Guard members and their families.

“You are an extraordinary partner to our military members,” said Col. Ed Suarez of the Minnesota National Guard, who spoke at the ceremony and presented a proclamation announcing the Council’s new status as a “Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Company.”

The Council becomes Minnesota’s 83rd “Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Company,” Suarez noted, adding that the Council submitted the best plan the state program has seen to date. “You went well and above,” he said.

Steve Share/Minneapolis Labor Review

Minnesota State Auditor Julie Blaha looked on as Col. Ed Suarez of the Minnesota National Guard presented the “Beyond the Yellow Ribbon” proclamation to Joe Fowler, president of the Minnesota State Building and Construction Trades Council.

Joe Fowler, president of the State Building Trades Council, accepted the proclamation. Like a cohesive military unit, “Building and Construction Trades [work[ is a team sport,” Fowler said. “We use our diverse talents and backgrounds to come together.”

The steering committee which developed the Council’s plan included several members who are themselves former members of the military.

Fowler and Col. Suarez gave a special shout-out to Katrice Trahan, who helped facilitate the work of the steering committee. A veteran of both the U.S. Navy and the Navy Reserve, Trahan provides administrative support to the State Building Trades Council and also is office manager for the Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council.

“People don’t really think about our military service members when they come home,” said Trahan, who deployed to Kuwait in 2005.

A crowd of people standing outside with their hands over their hearts look to the right side of the image in front of a big brown building and red lamp post and clock

Steve Share/Minneapolis Labor Review

The audience joined in the Pledge of Allegiance to begin the ceremony. Steve Share/Minneapolis Labor Review

Marking the completion of the “Beyond the Yellow Ribbon” planning was important to her, Trahan said. “It’s an awesome feeling because we put in all this work.”

Another veteran who served on the steering committee was Trinidad Uribe, business manager of Sprinkler Fitters Local 417, who served eight years on active duty in the U.S. Army. He noted that his father, brother and son-in-law also are veterans. “I was a beneficiary of these types of organizations,” he said.

Uribe added that “the discipline, the structure, the ability to work productively” learned in the military provide good preparation to enter an apprentice program.

The steering committee also included Justin Rost, director of Minnesota’s Helmets to Hardhats program. Rost served four years in the U.S. Marines before joining Sheet Metal Workers Local 10.

Steve Share/Minneapolis Labor Review

Justin Rost, director of Minnesota’s Helmets to Hardhats program.

“We are beyond proud to be declared a Yellow Ribbon Company,” Fowler said. And, he urged the crowd, “continue to ask yourself, ‘what more can we do?’”

This article first appeared in the August 2022 issue of Minneapolis Labor Review.

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